Potential Scheme: Rigged Specifications

Project officials can tailor the specifications in the requests for bids or proposals to favor a particular bidder and to exclude others, often as the result of corruption. Specifications that are too narrow can be used to exclude qualified bidders or justify improper sole source awards.  Unduly vague or broad specifications can allow an unqualified bidder to compete or justify fraudulent change orders after the contract is awarded.  Vague specifications also can indicate an unbalanced bidding scheme.

RED FLAGS OF RIGGED SPECIFICATIONS

  • Specifications are significantly narrower or broader than in previous similar requests for bids
  • Close similarity between the specifications and the winning bidder’s product or services
  • Specifications in Request for Bids includes specific brand names
  • Indications or allegations that the winning bidder prepared the contract specifications
  • Fewer than the normal or expected number of bids
  • High number of contract awards to one bidder
  • Complaints from losing bidders that the specifications are tailored to a competitor

CASE EXAMPLES OF RIGGED SPECIFICATIONS

See actual case examples of rigged specifications from investigated cases.

BASIC STEPS TO DETECT AND PROVE RIGGED SPECIFICATIONS

  1. Identify and interview all complainants and confidential sources to obtain further detail.
  2. Obtain the following documents and examine them for the red flags listed above:
    • Requests for bids
    • Bid evaluation reports
    • Change order requests and approvals
  3. Consult industry experts for assistance in examining specifications for technical contracts.
  4. Examine the website, catalogue or product list of the winning bidder and note close similarities to the bid specifications.
  5. Compare the suspect contract specs to previous specifications for similar product or services and note differences.